The medico-legal issues surrounding informed consent are highly topical and contentious. Current attitudes to consent emphasize the high level of 'good medical practice' expected by a 'reasonable patient/parent'. The authors' objectives were to assess the levels of knowledge and information expected by patients and parents, prior to signing consent forms for a surgical procedure. Each patient or parent was asked a series of questions prior to signing a consent form. Answers were recorded on a standard questionnaire. More than 80 per cent of respondents were happy with the information provided in out-patients, however, over half of these could not list even one complication of their operation. Two-thirds of those surveyed sought information elsewhere, while over half expected to be informed of all known complications, even if the rate of complications was less than one per cent. In conclusion, the information provided by surgeons might not meet the expectations of today's informed patients.